Ironbridge to Receive £9.9 Million for Urgent Conservation & Repair Work

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust has been awarded £9.9 million by the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) from the Cultural Assets Fund (CAF), a £20 million government funding stream to protect treasured heritage assets in England from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This funding will allow the museum to carry out a backlog of urgent conservation and repair work to 49 historic buildings and structures across the UNESCO World Heritage Site. This includes five scheduled monuments and 30 listed buildings which are recognised individually and collectively for their architectural and historic significance.

The Cultural Assets Fund is funding specifically for conservation work identified as part of the IGMT Quinquennial Review, carried out in 2021. £5.5m of the fund has been allocated specifically for the repair and maintenance of the historical buildings and monuments. The grant also includes £4.5m endowment funding which will be invested to ensure income generation for continuing conservation maintenance and to help safeguard the future of the heritage assets.

Visitor figures to Ironbridge, which has recently experienced devastating floods, dropped by almost 75% in 2020 due to the pandemic, compared to 2019. With less visitor income, the organisation’s funds for vital conservation repair work have been significantly reduced. The pandemic also meant that volunteers were unable to offer their usual help with site maintenance, including flooding repair work. In contrast, 2019 saw over 400 individuals volunteering almost 25,000 hours of their time to support the site.

The funding will support vital repairs to some of Ironbridge’s most important structures, which reveal how its rural landscape was transformed and optimised in the 18th century to provide the transport links, raw materials, and natural resources required for industrial processes such as iron, brick making, and ceramics. The survival of this heritage in its original context is crucial for maintaining the integrity and authenticity of Ironbridge as a designated World Heritage Site, attracting visitors from across the world.

Bedlam Furnaces

Forncett Steam Museum Pipe Appeal

The Forncett Industrial Steam Museum, established in 1981 by Dr Rowan Francis, tells the story of the development of steam power in Great Britain from 1698 to the present day. 18 full-sized engines spanning the industrial revolution have been rescued and restored to working order on the site. They are demonstrated to the public on steam days including one of the steam engines that was used to open Tower Bridge in London. Based in southern Norfolk, this small, independent, volunteer-run museum became a Charitable Incorporated Organisation in 2018.

A boiler inspection in June 2021 concluded that the whole pipeline system would have to be replaced with mill certified seamless steam pipe and certified wrought iron fittings and valves, in order to obtain renewed public liability insurance. Consequently, the museum volunteers have had to strip out the entire pipe system from boiler to each engine for replacement with new piping.

Not only does this mean that the museum will not be in full steam until May 2022, but the museum also needs to raise the £14,000 it will cost to replace the old pipework with the new material. The museum has set up on online appeal, with the aim of getting the engines back in steam for next spring. To donate follow this link: https://www.forncettsteammuseum.co.uk/

The Hopwas Beam Engine ‘Spruce’, installed at the Tamworth Pumping Station in 1879

Supporting, Sharing, Strengthening: AIM’s Annual Conference & AGM, 16-18 June 2021

What hard lessons are we learning in the face of the pandemic? Have our reflections resulted in changes for good? What skills or new ways of working have we developed – and might they help us prepare for an uncertain future? The Association of Independent Museums’ (AIM) virtual Conference faces these questions head on, helping delegates build on their organisational and personal strengths to meet the challenges of the future with confidence and creativity.

The annual conference will look at the importance of leadership and good governance during hard times, sharing the new ways of working we adopted and forecasting what next for the sector. From practical sessions to personal reflections, expert plenaries to virtual networking, the conference brings together delegates from across the UK for engaging sessions led by practitioners, professionals, experts, and policymakers. It will cover the latest insights and advice and encourage you to make new contacts, catch-up and share best practice, too. Conference programme details can be found here: AIM National Conference 2021 – AIM – Association of Independent Museums (aim-museums.co.uk). Booking here: Supporting, Sharing, Strengthening: AIM Conference 2021

AIM’s 2021  Annual General Meeting will also take place online at 13.30 on the first day of the the AIM Annual Conference, Wednesday 16th June.

For any queries do contact us on info@aim-museums.co.uk 

Spode Museum Trust ‘From Clay to Treasure’ Project: Consultant Opportunity

Spode Museum Trust (SMT) is looking to appoint suitably qualified consultants to carry out work relating to the Spode collection and Spode Works site, as part of its project ‘Spode Museum Trust: From clay to treasure’. Spode was a world-renowned pottery that produced iconic bone china in Stoke-on-Trent from 1767 until the factory’s closure in 2008. Caring for the Spode collection – a fantastic archive of design – is the passion of SMT. However the bulk of the collection is off-site and inaccessible.

SMT, with a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and in partnership with the National Trust, is hoping to identify a future for the collection within the historic factory buildings which allows better conservation and access, delivers greater public benefit, and is sustainable. The project consists of five separate, but interlinked work packages. Three of these work packages are now live:

  1. Conservation and Curatorial

Conservation and curatorial expertise will help establish the relevant significance of the collection and provide a snapshot of its needs, with a view to informing options for its future conservation and management

  • Options Appraisal

The consultant will build a picture of the current visitor profile and experience, potential audience and wants and needs; benchmark competitors and comparators; and report on spatial constraints and opportunities.

  • Evaluation

To measure the success of the project, identify lessons learnt, and improve ways of working during and beyond the project, the Evaluation consultant will be required to develop an appropriate methodology for project evaluation and gathering/sharing of learning throughout the project.

Chair of Spode Museum Trust, Richard Gray said; “The Spode Museum Trust is working with the National Trust and Sara Hilton Associates to deliver this Feasibility Study, so the world class collections once again within the historic factory site can secure new, powerful contemporary relevance and contexts.” 

Interested candidates should contact Ellie Ralphs ellie.ralphs@nationaltrust.org.uk for the full detailed briefs of the work. The deadline for submissions is 5pm on Friday 16th April 2021.

Industrial Objects in Need of a New Home

The Birmingham Museums Trust, as part of their National Portfolio Organisation-funded ‘Science Collection Research, Rationalisation and Redisplay’ project (2018-2022), have recently approved a small group of objects for disposal from their collection. These are a Cornish boiler, a steam turbine condenser, and an injection moulding machine.

The items (see below) are currently advertised on the Museums Association ‘Find an Object’ service here: Find an Object – Museums Association

Cornish boiler of 1904 made by Nu-Way Heating Plants of Droitwich
Mid-20th century condenser
Reed-Prentice 10D injection moulding machine

If any Industrial Heritage network members are interested in acquiring these items, or have any questions about any of the objects, they are very welcome to email Felicity McWilliams at BMT directly via: Felicity.McWilliams@birminghammuseums.org.uk.

Queen Street Mill Museum Job Opportunities

Queen Street Mill Museum, which is run by Lancashire County Council, has openings for two posts in 2021. Both are permanent and the closing date for applications is the 29th January 2021.

Firstly, they are seeking a Weaving Technician. This role is to perform preventative maintenance, repair, and overhaul of the historic textile machinery held in the collections associated with Queen Street Mill Textile Museums. The job is for 37 hours a week. For further information and how to apply, please click here.

Secondly, they are look for a Technical Demonstrator for a range of historic machinery in a safe manner to provide engaging interpretation to visitors.  This post will assist in the maintenance of the machinery and its environs as required and contribute to the manufacture of woven fabric to a high standard.  The post will also support all museum operations and activities in order to ensure visitors gain the best possible experience of their visit to the museum. The job is for 29.6 hours per week. For further information and how to apply, please click here.

Museum of Bath at Work Get’s on its Bike

The Museum of Bath at Work are planning to publicise the Museum in the centre of Bath by having one or two volunteers dressed as Victorian or Edwardian trades-people with bicycles carrying adverts for the Museum. This is part of their COVID-19 recovery plan for re-opening the museum later in 2021. Thus, the Museum is looking for a suitable bike.

Do you know of an old tradesman’s bike for loan or sale? Ideally it should have a frame for a basket or box on the front or back, or both. Any condition considered as long as the bike is reasonably complete. The museum will collect as the current COVID restrictions allow. Please contact the museum if you can help.

Contact details and further information about the Museum of Bath at Work can be found here: http://www.bath-at-work.org.uk/

Second England COVID-19 Lockdown – Some Key Heritage Website Links

The UK Government has announced (31 October 2020) a second lockdown for England to run for four weeks from 5 November to 2 December inclusive. Museums, galleries, and and all non-essential retail venues will be required to close during this period. At the end of the period, England will return to a regional approach of Tier restrictions, based upon the latest data.

A second lockdown in England will place extra strain on the Industrial Heritage sector. Only 50% of the c. 600 protected industrial heritage monuments and museums accessible to the public in England were able to open their doors after the first lock down ended in July. Even before the second lockdown was announced many sites were already closing for their normal winter maintenance period, whilst others had chosen not to re-open until spring 2021. However, that leaves a large number of industrial heritage sites and museums that would normally be open in the autumn and winter facing another closure. Furthermore, the continued restrictions on group meetings is also putting strain on the activities, fieldwork, and research of industrial archaeology and industrial heritage volunteer groups and societies.

There are some differences from the first lockdown so its important to keep up-to-date with the latest regulations. You can read the November UK Government guidance here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november?s=0

The latest UK Government Coronovirus Advice can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

For further updates on the impact of the Second Lockdown on the wider heritage sector see the Heritage Alliance website here:

The UK Government also announced the following financial support measures for the second lockdown:

  • workers in any part of the UK can retain their job, even if their employer cannot afford to pay them, and be paid at least 80% of their salary up to £2500 a month.
  • the flexibility of the current Coronovirus Job Retention Scheme will be retained to allow employees to continue to work where they can.
  • employers small or large, charitable or non-profit are eligible and because more businesses will need to close, they will now be asked to pay just National Insurance and Pensions contributions for their staff during the month of November.
  • the Job Support Scheme will not be introduced until after the Job Retention Scheme ends.

Museum Development Network: Supporting Your Industrial Heritage Museum

All the roughly 600 preserved industrial heritage sites usually open to the public in England were closed on 23rd March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A significant number are now starting to re-open, or are preparing to re-open, from heritage railways and pumping houses, to wind and water mills. Now is a good time to remind industrial heritage site owners, and those running such sites, of the free support on offer from the Museum Development network.

This is a well-established network of regional museum support groups funded by the Arts Council and local authorities, for non-national museums. Each has its own dedicated team of advisors, and these regional museum support networks offer a range of services from grants and case studies, to events lists and training: on making your museum ready for COVID-19 return for instance. Links to the relevant regional websites are below:

Museum Develpment East Midlands: https://mdem.org.uk/news/

Museum Development North East: https://museumdevelopmentne.org.uk/

Museum Development North West: https://museumdevelopmentnorthwest.wordpress.com/

Museum Development Yorkshire: https://www.museumdevelopmentyorkshire.org.uk/

Share Museums East: http://www.sharemuseumseast.org.uk/

South East Museum Development: https://southeastmuseums.org/

South Museum Development: https://southwestmuseums.org.uk/

Supporting London Museums: https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/supporting-london-museums

West Midlands Museum Development: https://mdwm.org.uk/

The Long Warehouse, Ironbridge, March 2020.

Historic England Guidance on Re-Opening (Industrial) Heritage Sites

The headstocks at the Lancashire Mining Museum

On the 24th June 2020 the UK Government issued advice on re-opening the Visitor Economy from the 4th July as the COVID-19 epidemic eases. This includes advice on how safe working can be implemented whilst maintaining social distancing (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/the-visitor-economy).

With a few notable exceptions, such as some water-powered and wind-powered flour mills, all the 600 plus protected industrial heritage sites in England traditionally open to the public were closed on the 23rd March this year. After more than three months sites as diverse as the Amberley Museum, Blue Bell Railway, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, and the Lancashire Mining Museum are preparing to re-open over the summer.

The Blue Bell Railway

If you are amongst the thousands of heritage sites in England preparing to reopen a heritage location to the public, including those with retail and wider visitor attractions, or you are preparing to go back to work at a historic site, Historic England has prepared this page which may be useful. Here you will find sections on:

  • guidance from the Government and other sector bodies;
  • pubs and restaurants within historic sites;
  • retail within historic buildings;
  • working safely as a heritage professional at heritage locations;
  • places of worship;
  • historic parks and gardens;
  • and industrial heritage sites

This advice should help owners and staff of historic sites, especially at the hundreds of volunteer-run industrial heritage sites in England, think through the considerations for reopening or returning to work. Please note that the considerations listed are not exhaustive and it should be also noted that they do NOT add additional requirements to the Government guidance or legislation.